From reading emotions to keeping a conversation on topic, what comes naturally to many teens can be a source of misunderstanding and stress for students with special needs who struggle with social skills. Practicing conversations and playing games with your students can help prepare them for real-world interactions. The following games allow your students to improve their social skills in the safe environment of their classroom.
1. Emotion Bingo
Create bingo cards with different faces in each square. Each face should show a different emotion. Have your students mark off their squares as you call out each emotion. You can also have your students draw faces of different emotions on blank cards.
2. The Chain Game
Have your students play this game in pairs or small groups. Print out 20 pictures of chain links and two pictures of broken chain links. Give your students a topic and tell them to have a conversation on that topic, making sure to take turns. Each time a student says something new on debate topics, place a link on the table. If someone says something off topic, place a broken link on the table. Their goal is to make a chain of all 20 links without any broken links.
A classic game of charades helps teach students how to use gestures and body language to convey their thoughts and how to read someone else's gestures and body language. You can also place students in pairs or small groups and have them work cooperatively to act out each word or phrase.
4. Keep It Up
Place your students in pairs and have them work together to keep a balloon or beach ball in the air. Your students will learn to pay attention to each other's movements and how to work cooperatively.
5. Idiom Memory Match
Some students have difficulty with figurative language. This game will help them understand the actual meaning of different idioms. Cut 10 index cards in half so you have 20 cards. On 10 of them, write an idiom and on the other 10, write the literal meaning. For example, if you write "piece of cake" on one card, write "easy" on another card. Shuffle the cards and have your student place them face down on the table. Like a regular memory game, they'll take turns flipping over two cards to try to make a match. The student with the most matches wins.
These social skills games can be used the main part of a lesson or as filler activities throughout the day. The more your students practice with these games, the more comfortable they'll feel having conversations in more authentic environments.
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